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New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton and Olivia Chow react to grand-daughter Beatrice while watching election results come in from a hotel suite in Toronto, Ont. May 2, 2011. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jack Layton and Olivia Chow react to grand-daughter Beatrice while watching election results come in from a hotel suite in Toronto, Ont. May 2, 2011. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Opposition leader Layton will have a caucus of new faces Add to ...

For the first time in Canadian history, the NDP is moving in to Stornoway.

As the party settles into an unfamiliar role - leading the Official Opposition in a Parliament ruled by a Conservative majority - returning NDP MPs can be expected to provide some stability, while leader Jack Layton decides how best to deploy the dozens of new faces in a caucus that has grown dramatically.

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The veterans

While changes can be expected, the NDP says past critic assignments will be a useful guide to who will play senior opposition roles. That means Thomas Mulcair is likely to stay as finance critic, Paul Dewar at foreign affairs, Joe Comartin at justice, Jack Harris at defence and Linda Duncan at environment.

As the lead MP of a suddenly influential Quebec caucus, Mr. Mulcair, a former cabinet minister in the Charest government in Quebec City, can also be expected to play a lead role in any outreach to the province, whether it be via constitution policy or language policy.

Facing a highly unpredictable new Parliamentary session, the NDP is also likely to opt for the status quo in the roles of House Leader and whip, currently held by Libby Davies and Yvon Godin.

Starting east, health critic Megan Leslie of Halifax was re-elected, as was Peter Stoffer, who will likely keep the veterans portfolio.

The NDP was shut out of Prince Edward Island and failed to elect any new MPs in New Brunswick.

David Christopherson, who won in Hamilton Centre, is one of the few NDP MPs with cabinet experience. Olivia Chow of Trinity-Spadina will have a senior role, likely on immigration issues. Canadian Heritage critic Charlie Angus is an advocate of what the Conservatives call an "iPod tax," though he has worked on other files in the past. The heritage file will be a hot one given the international pressure on Canada to update its copyright laws.

Churchill NDP MP Niki Ashton's responsibilities for youth issues could be shared or handed to someone new given the many young NDP candidates elected from Quebec.

In British Columbia, Don Davies of Vancouver Kingsway has experience on public safety issues and Nathan Cullen from Skeena-Bulkley Valley has focused on natural resources and environmental issues. Fin Donnelly's re-election in New Westminster-Coquitlam could see him continue his focus on the Pacific fishery.

The new faces

For reasons of geography and experience, a number of newly-elected New Democrats could find themselves in prominent roles. Though the rookies are generally light in terms of business or cabinet experience, their ranks include several accomplished individuals.

The former leader of the provincial NDP in Nova Scotia, Robert Chisholm, won a seat in Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

The expected wave of new Quebec MPs also gives Mr. Layton plenty to choose from.

Gatineau-area Quebec candidates Françoise Boivin and Nycole Turmel are pegged for high-profile roles, as well as Cree leader Romeo Saganash - who won a tight battle in Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou. The party is also excited about Hoang Mai, a lawyer with experience working in The Hague, will win in Brossard-La Prairie.

NDP victories in the Quebec City area include women's-rights activist Anne-Marie Day in Charlesbourg-Haute-Saint-Charles and Annick Papillon in the riding of Quebec.

In Ontario, Peggy Nash is expected to reprise her role as industry after winning back the Parkdale-High Park riding she lost in 2008. In British Columbia, SFU professor Kennedy Stewart in Burnaby Douglas won a seat and Jasbir Sandhu in Surrey North was leading at deadline. Both would be in line for critic jobs.

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